Where were you when 4 countries broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar?

Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

It started off as a regular work day.  My alarm went off at 6:00 am, 1 hour earlier than the rest of the school year, because it is Ramadan so school starts later and ends earlier. I pressed the snooze button once maybe twice.  By the time I got out of bed, it was around 6:20ish.  I washed, dressed, and ate breakfast with my son.  I met Jennifer downstairs. We’ve been carpooling since we moved into the same apartment complex.  “Four countries done split from Qatar”, she said.  I opened my phone and saw all the chatter in multiple Facebook groups for which I am a member.

On Monday, June 5, 2017-  CNBC headline “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar”.  Doha News “Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have broken off diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed land, sea and air access to the nation, according to official reports”.   Today is Thursday and since this happened, it seems to be all people are talking about.

I will not go into details on my feelings or the ‘background’ behind the whole thing, because over here, you have to be very careful of your words and what you post on social media.  Besides only the people involved know the real truths.  I have read a lot of news about the reasons that this has occurred.  I encourage you to read up on it as well (click here to read about it on CNBC).

As for life here in hot Qatar, it is business as usual.  Life goes on.  I get up, do my routine, and go to work.  I come home, cook, and talk to my husband on the phone.  Of course, I am worried.  I am worried about getting home stateside safely in a week.  I am worried if I will be able to return to Qatar where I’ve grown quite comfortable.  I like my lifestyle here, calm, peaceful, making good money, traveling, light work.  It’s not perfect but it’s home, for now.

Since Monday other countries have also cut off ties with Qatar, including Libya, Maldives and Mauritius.  I am happy I got to visit Bahrain, Egypt and Maldives before this happened.  KSA and Oman have not cut ties with Qatar as of now.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  For now, I’m safe!  Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

Ramadan in Qatar through the eyes of an Expat

I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.

It’s almost Ramadan and this will be my first time seeing it celebrated from a Muslim country.  Sure there are Muslims in the U.S.A that I know and yes they participate in Ramadan but I’m assuming it’s a little different from seeing it up close from the Middle East.

Since I am not Muslim, I will not try to educate you on the holiday but you can find more information by clicking here!  These are just my observations…

11/05/17 (This is the way the date is written over here: day/month/year)

2 weeks before Ramadan: Today my school had a small celebration called ‘Alnafla’.  I never heard of that before this week.  The way it was explained to me, it’s like a countdown to Ramadan.  The schools’ common areas were decorated, students wore their national dress and colors and brought in traditional food.  All week, students bought in donations for Syria as well.

15/5/17- A Qatari speaker came to my class today to talk with my students about Ramadan.  I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying but as they spoke in their native language, I grew a new found appreciation for the value this holiday must hold for them. I grew angry at how prayer has been taken out of the schools of my home country.  Qatar has such pride in their religion, how could prayer in schools be bad?  My students were so quiet at times and so engaged at others.  I only wished I could comprehend.

20/5/17- Yesterday would be the last alcoholic brunch until Ramadan, so I decided to accept an invitation from the BSoQ group I am a member of on Facebook and join them for brunch.  We went to Bubbalicious at the Westin.  It was my first time having brunch there and it was definitely a party.  People were yelling and dancing and alcohol was flowing.  There was even a soul train line going through the restaurant with a bunny.  I ate so much seafood and drank too much beer, wine and bubbly.  I met some really nice people and will be more actively involved with this group.  I had a ball hanging out with them.  We were the last to leave the brunch and me and another girl got in trouble because we thought it would be fun to abandon our heels and adulthood and jump in a bouncy house in the middle of the hotel.   Who does this?  I’ll tell you- two drunk girls who were just enjoying life.  In between being laughed at and recorded by a couple enjoying some food in the lobby and security waving us out, the air was let out of the bouncy house as well as the air out of our sails.   I just hoped our shenanigans wouldn’t land us in bigger trouble.  Afterwards we went to La Cigale hotel to smoke Shisha.  I had another engagement to attend with some coworkers, too tipsy to drive, so I left my car at the hotel valet and took an uber to the third affair of the day which was at the Radisson Blu hotel.  Since I was so late to that party, I hugged everyone, enjoyed another beer- you heard me- and we all hopped in a car headed someplace else.  One of my girlfriends picked up my car from the other hotel and drove it to their house.  After the fourth affair we went to my girlfriend Jennifer’s house where I crashed.

I usually do not drink that much because I hate over hangs and that is exactly what I had this morning.  As I drove home, I prayed that I’d make it home without throwing up into my handbag.   It was not one of my finer moments, but it was fun.  Needless to say, I probably will not be drinking again, any time soon, so the QDC (liquor store) can stop sending me text messages of the last day to purchase alcoholic beverages before the store closes for Ramadan- about a month.  Not today Satan.  I don’t need or want any of your spirits and fruits.  I wonder how many other people had a night like mine, trying to get that last celebration in before the holiday.

FB_IMG_1495195220920
New friends in Qatar
20170519_150551
Soul Train line with a bunny
20170519_150544
Getting done
20170519_171732
Having fun
20170519_175554
In the bouncy house. Don’t judge!

28/5/17- Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak is how people greet each other during this special month.  (Sort of like Happy Easter or Merry Christmas)  Ramadan officially started yesterday.   I heard the sound of the Canon last night.  It is a way they communicate that it is time to break the fast for the day and Iftar may begin.

FYI:

  • During Ramadan, work hours are reduced for most people.  For us teachers, work starts at 8:00am and ends at 1:00pm.  This is also the school hours for students everyday except for Tuesday.  On Tuesday, students get out at 12:00 pm.  This is wonderful news.  No more getting up at 5:00am for the rest of the school year, 3 weeks to go! Today was the first day, unfortunately, my body is so used to getting up that at 5:15 am I had to use the bathroom.  I was so irritated at myself, but I managed to get back under the covers and fall asleep for another hour.  It was lovely.
  • Adults are not allowed to eat or drink in public, not even in their car, from sun-up to sun-down.  Many restaurants don’t even open.  Fortunately, you can order take away from some places and delivery from others.  You can get a fine if you are caught eating in public or even jail time, whether you are Muslim or not.  It’s about respect and consideration for those who are fasting.  You can eat and drink in private places, like your home.  Yesterday, I went to the nail salon and was surprised that I was offered coffee and tea.
  • Children below 4th grade generally are not required to fast but they can.   Of my 12 students that came to school today, 2 of them partook in lunch, the others claimed to be fasting.  I made it clear to them, not to judge those who were not.
  • In the evening, most families have a huge meal, called Iftar.  Some even give food away. Yesterday at the Corniche, police officers were giving away food.
  • I’ve heard that the malls stay open very late and if you go, it will be like Black Friday at 2 in the morning, as parents purchase gifts for their kids for the end of Ramadan celebration, called Eid.  I’ll let you know my experience when I go late at night.  My son and I went to ‘The Mall’ yesterday and it was an absolute ghost town.
  • It is such a delight seeing men run to the mosque for morning and evening prayer, some running into the mosque and some simply praying outside in groups.   I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.   It is really something.

20170526_115241

Last night, my friend Jennifer held the first Iftar.  We enjoyed a light dinner and each other’s company.  I have 3 more Iftar’s that I will be attending this week including one with my job and another with friends from the BSoQ facebook group.  Ramadan is indeed a special time in Qatar.   Sadly, I will not be here to see the whole thing play through as I will be headed on some more adventures on my way home to the states.

FB_IMG_1495986668040

Ramadan Kareem everyone from Qatar!

Apartment Hunting in Qatar

Everything in Qatar is different than home and the process of finding and securing a new place is no exception.  A few months ago, the company that I work for gave everyone the option of taking a housing allowance or be moved to a different accommodation.  Since we arrived we have been living in a very nice compound that is approximately a 15 minute drive to work.  This is very good for Qatar, since traffic can get extremely hectic.  I was a little nervous about being moved too far away and having a long commute to work.  So I considered taking the housing allowance.  I also took this as an opportunity to save some money, since the housing allowance is a nice amount and I was optimistic that I’d be able to find a place below that amount.  On the other hand, I didn’t really want to bother with renting and all that comes with that, that I know about, and all that I don’t know about in a foreign country.  In the end, money won, as well as other reasons, and I took the allowance. (without knowing everything first)

I haven’t had to look for a place to live in over 16 years.  I own my house in Philadelphia and I had forgotten how stressful it could be.  I haven’t had to look for a place alone in over 21 years.  At least I wasn’t the only one looking.  On top of this, the compound that we lived in, that we loved so much, had been sold and the new management turned off our wifi and our company knew nothing about this until I brought it to their attention.  I won’t bore you with the particulars, besides I just want to forget about that whole ordeal. It was very stressful in the beginning but like everything you learn to cope.  In the midst of searching for a new place, I actually got to navigate thru Doha and see some interesting accommodations.  The way they build some of these buildings makes no sense.  I saw one apartment where there were on-suites to both guest bedrooms but no connecting bathroom for the master bedroom.  I’ve seen shower heads with no bathtub or shower wall or door and kitchens so small that the refrigerator and stove were located some place else.  I’ve seen apartments with high floors, a kitchen as soon as you walk in with the bedrooms in the rear and no other way out if there was a fire in the kitchen except plunge to your death or be burned alive.  I’ve seen structural cracks being caulked over.  I’ve also seen huge houses with a kitchen outside and multiple rooms with no purpose, beautiful apartments across the street from slums, and places a stone’s toss away from a beach.  I think you get the point.

It came down to two places for me.  A beautiful newly built apartment with a 5 minute drive to work or a not so brand new beautiful apartment with a 30 minute ride to work. Would it surprise you to know that I didn’t pick the obvious choice?

Both apartments had pros and cons.  The first one was newly built with all new furniture and appliances and it included twice a week maid service.  It was literally 5 minutes away from work and much less expensive with all utilities included.  I could save over $1,000 a month in housing allowance alone, if I chose to.  But it had no frills.  Five minutes away from work meant at least 30 minutes away from everything else, like malls, restaurants, Ed City, etc… It did not have a gym or pool.  All the neighboring fitness centers were for men only and hubby and I love to work out together. The kitchen was a closet with tin drawers and no dish washer.  The bathrooms were even smaller closets, and well, here is a picture of what was supposed to be the shower.

20170512_122504

Yeah I couldn’t get passed the showers.  And new in a Doha does not always mean better; there is nothing to go on so you never know what you will get.  The other apartment is more expensive and electricity and water is not included.  This cuts my savings from my housing allowance more than half.  But the apartment is bigger and more modern with an open kitchen concept and a dishwasher.  It includes a bathtub, actual shower and washer and dryer.  The complex has a pool, steam room, gym and club house. Everything that I enjoy about Doha is literally within a 15 minute drive.  Parking is underground and I like the furniture.  I guess it came down to preference and to me, me and my husband’s comfort in a foreign country is very important.  When I come home from work, my home is my solace and refuge.  Also, I know quite a few people who currently reside there, so I had something to go on.

Accommodations in Doha are expensive.  I will be paying about $2400.00 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom, approximately 120sqm apartment, compared to about $800 in rent that I would have to pay in Philadelphia and the $750 I paid in mortgage monthly.  Crazy, right.  Our housing allowance is about $3,000.00 a month.

Most rental companies require the first month rent and one month security deposit due upon signing the lease.   Some even require a commission fee which is usually an additional half month.  This is because a lot of companies use realtors to show their place and the commission goes to them.  Also you will be required to give post dated checks for each month until the end of the contract.  Basically, I gave the rental company 13 checks, two current months and 11 future months.  Here’s the kicker, I don’t begin to get my housing allowance until I have completely vacated my current property.   So I had to pay the first month and security out of my pocket because I can’t move without having a place to stay. (I didn’t know that before I decided to go with the housing allowance). Lesson learned: find out all the info before accepting anything.

Anyway, I signed my lease starting June 1.  The landlord is nice enough to allow me to move in one week sooner.  This way I am sure to vacate before June 5th and hand over my keys, therefore meeting the deadline to receive my first housing allowance in my June pay.  This is what is supposed to happen, but this is Qatar and things usually don’t go like you plan, so fingers crossed.

Update 28/5/17:

I’ve moved.  You won’t believe how much I’ve accumulated in one year.  It’s definitely a downgrade from that big ole villa I had but home is what you make it, right?  Here are some pictures of my new apartment before I decorated it.

20170525_16033020170525_16023420170525_16021620170525_160210

5 days in Egypt – How it changed the way I Look at Life and How I travel

Visiting my dream country was so much different than my dreams.

When I was a child, there was no place on Earth I wanted to go more then Egypt.  I was fascinated by it’s history and the Pyramids.  I wanted to be an archaeologist and discover a new mummy.  Every year around Easter, my mother and I would watch the 10 Commandments.  The Mummy is still one of my favorite movies.  Now that I live so close, there was no way I wasn’t going to travel there.  It was one of the first places I planned to visit after we moved here.  But then, there were reports of bombings and uprising in Egypt so I cancelled our trip there in December and we went to Bahrain and Oman instead.  One of the things I have learned here is that if you let media dictate how you travel, you will miss out on a lot.  So I planned our trip again, and wouldn’t you know, a week before we were scheduled to leave, more bombings took place.  Not to be easily deterred, I decided we were going anyway.

We arrived in Cairo airport and were met by our tour manager.  I used Memphis tour company and they took care of our hotels, flights between Luxor and Cairo, breakfast and lunch meals minus beverages, our tours and transportation.  I figured this was a safer way to navigate through Egypt.  (You can read my long drawn out review of my experience with them by clicking here on Trip advisor) Anyway we were taken to the Fairmont Heliopolis hotel where we spent out first night and ate overpriced Teppanyaki.

20170412_103658In the morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel buffet and went back to the airport so we could take a flight to Luxor.  We flew on a small EgyptAir plane, which was late.  It is not a very nice airline and the flight was full of turbulence.  Thank goodness it was only an hour flight. 20170412_123922Once in Luxor we were met by a tour guide and a new driver.  Our itinerary was slightly changed due to the late arrival of our plane and the heat.  Before beginning our tours, our tour guide (BT I will call him) gave us some advice for Egypt.  He said, “while out, keep walking, if people come up to you wanting to sell you things, keep walking.  Don’t talk to them, pay them no mind, just keep up with me, otherwise you will be hounded like crazy.  I will take you someplace to buy authentic stuff later ”  On the way to our first tour BT stopped to get us a snack and a drink at a local store, while we waited in the car.  Three young boys waved at my son and I in the car, my son waved back.  Then one of the boys put his hand out to ask for money.  My son and I looked at each other and the boys walked off.  We were a bit shocked but shrugged it off.  BT returned and we were off to tour the Karnak temples. As we drove to the temples, I noticed police officers everywhere.  Most had very large guns and blast shields.  There were check points in several places.  There were officers in small boxes at the top of buildings and in the streets.  Once we got to the temples, the driver said something to the officers stationed at the gates in Arabic, all I heard was (Americana’s), then the officers checked the trunk and around the car before waving us through.  We got out of the cars and walked into the sites.   We admired the gigantic statues and hieroglyphics.  I liked touching the hieroglyphics engraved in the stones. They were once all in color but only small remnants of color remain.  Our tour guide pointed out the god of fertility with his erect penis, and one leg and arm.  He told us that the majority of the temples were destroyed in a large earthquake.   The temple once had a ceiling but the earthquake caused it to cave in.  Check out these cool pictures in my slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After visiting the Karnak Temple, we drove to lunch.

20170412_142758One of things I like about eating in Egypt is that you get bread, salad and a few other things with your meals at no extra cost.  While eating lunch, my son and I watched a kid around the age of 6, run up and down the block.  He was a cute child although in dirty, tattered clothing.  We watched him try to make a horse go and climb up onto the carriage.  We watched as the horse swayed slightly irritated.  We watched as the driver came out and waved the boy off.  We watched as the young boy asked a woman getting into a cab something, and the cab driver flagged him away.   As we got into our driver’s car, the boy approached the car.  He put his four fingers against his thumb and pointed his hand at his mouth.  He was begging for food and money.  Our driver gave him a coin, as he was very persistent and told him, “Khalas, yalla” (enough, go).  The boy didn’t move and when our tour guide got into the front seat and we started to leave, the young boy hung on the car door and chased the car until he could no longer keep up.  I was instantly saddened.  Beyond adult beggars panhandling, and children from neighborhood sports teams and bands asking for donations in the street, I had never first-hand seen anything like this in my life.   Is this Egypt, I thought to myself?  Where are all the Kings and Queens? Where is the beauty that I imagined?

We visited the Luxor temple next.  It’s smaller than the Karnak temple but in better condition.   Apparently some excavating of a stretch of street is occurring between the Karnak and Luxor temple because some smaller sphinx were discovered along a path which would connect the two temples.  There is so much history in Luxor uncovered beneath its earth.  I love that.  It’s like hidden clues to a treasure all over.  You will see several large obelisk, large, pointy columns at the Luxor temple.  At the entrance it is very noticeable that one is missing.  The missing obelisk is in Paris.  Zamir and I will look for it when we visit there in June.  There are several obelisk that have been taken from Egypt and stationed all over Europe.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are some additional pictures from the two temples.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our day came to a close with a drink by the pool at the Sonesta hotel.  The hotel decor reminds me of one from a mob movie, with lots of green and gold.  The bathrooms are of black and white marble.  The beds are tiny.  We had a view of the Nile from our room. We had to pay for internet which only worked on one device and request an iron which was broken.  The pool is beautiful but closed at 6pm but you could sign a letter at the front desk basically saying you would swim without a lifeguard at your own risk.  The back of the hotel is right on the Nile and you can watch the sun rise and set.  My son and I had a rather interesting conversation with one of the bartenders who told us it was okay for my son to have a drink or drugs.  I allowed him to enjoy a Rum and Coke before turning in for the night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First thing in the morning, we checked out, grabbed a boxed breakfast prepared by the hotel and met BT for day 2 of our Luxor tours.  The box for breakfast was heavy so we were curious of its contents but not pleased once revealed.  It included a badly bruised banana, stale bread and croissant, a slice of pound cake, apple juice (I hate apple juice), and a warm bottle of water.  We ate the slice of cake and threw everything else away.  (I know it was wasteful but it also wasn’t good)  Bt surprised us with a boat ride across the Nile to the west side.  It’s much wider than it looks but we enjoyed the ride.

20170413_06100020170413_06082420170413_061026

Within the mountains of sand in Luxor lies The Valley of the Kings.  Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside but here are some pictures from outside.

20170413_075301
Hidden in these mountains are secrets of the dead Kings
20170413_063142(0)
Me and Zamir outside the Valley of the kings
20170413_084642
This is actually a valley of the workers

I got this picture from google of what it looks like when you walk in the valley.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.32.40 AM

And here is a picture of the entrances to two of the tombs we visited.

We went around 7am which was perfect timing because we were the only ones there. After a brief history lesson, we went in 3 of the 65 burials.  One of them was of Merenptah of the 19th dynasty.  At first site this burial looks scary.  When you first approach the gate, it looks like a deep, dark hole.  Then the burial keeper turns on the light and the walk way lights up.  You have to walk down a series of steep ramps and steps to reach where the burial was found.  On the way, you will see faded colored hieroglyphics on the walls and ceiling and chambers where the dead’s belongings were buried separate from the mummy.  It is something amazing to see.  These people from thousands of years ago dug deep into the Earth and worked hard to hide these mummies without modern technologies or machinery.  The burial places were sacred and beautiful, the ceilings adorned in blue (my favorite color), stained by flowers.  These tombs were raided and left barren, except, so far anyway, for King Tutankhamen’s, 18th dynasty, the first royal tomb to be discovered that was still largely intact.  His tomb was discovered in the early 1900’s.

After leaving this valley, I wanted to visit the valley of the Queens but it was not on the tour list, so we headed over to the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.  The front of this temple was in unbelievable great shape.  I had to do some research to see if this was reconstructed because I couldn’t believe that this temple was found like this and yes it was reconstructed.  Here is a picture of it prior to reconstruction and now.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.13.14 PM          20170413_084639Nonetheless, it is remarkable.  There isn’t much inside but we had fun taking pictures there.

DSC_0180DSC_0189DSC_0209

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two strange incidents happened while at this Temple.  1) An armed officer starting following Zamir and I around while in this Temple. We were the only 2 people in this one outside room and here comes this officer out of no where, with his big gun, asking us where we are from and a heap of other questions.  Perhaps he was being cordial but Zamir must have read my mind because we quickly exited.  Maybe it was the American on high alert in us, or the media tales, or too much tv watching but we did not feel comfortable.  2) While waiting for our ride to put us closer to the Temple, we encountered a group of students on a field trip.  They pointed; they stared; they whispered; they giggled; they even took pictures and video of Zamir and I, so I whipped out my camera and started video taping them.  Imaginably they hadn’t seen people of darker skin or maybe they thought us to be celebrities.  They were friendly, not frightened of us but I would assume curious.  I believe I had my first encounter of traveling while Black.

20170413_084912
Cute kid

Our final stop, before we headed to the airport to return to Cairo, was to the Colossi of Memnon, 2 massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III.  20170413_09343820170413_093534(0)

Before we left, our tour guide treated us to some sugar cane juice.  It was good but left me with a huge headache.  I shot these pictures of some homes in Luxor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unsurprisingly, our EgyptAir flight was delayed.  Our hearts were bursting with excitement but our stomachs were growling.  There was nothing to eat in this tiny airport for a pescatarian and by the time we boarded our plane, not even seats in the front could cure my ‘hangriness’.  We were happy that for the first time we were sitting in front of the curtain instead of behind it (thanks to Memphis tours) but they only had apple juice (what is it with apple juice in Egypt) and the sandwich they served reminded me of middle school cafeteria lunch. YUCK! (Not eating that, even if I am starving).

We were picked up at Cairo airport and driven to our new hotel, The Le Meridian. Driving in Cairo is ludicrous.  There are few traffic lights.  Brave pedestrians walk out in traffic and bob and weave. There are tuk tuks and bicycles and motorbikes, and trucks and cars and trucks with animals in them.  I saw a man driving a motorcycle with a kid sitting in front of him, one behind him, then a women behind that kid, holding 2 small children and another child seated behind her.  It blew my mind.  Totally safe, right? All the cars had scratches and bruises and I could see why.  I would not drive a new car in Cairo.  I would not drive in Cairo at all.  And the scenery well, imagine the most crowded, dirtiest streets of New York, now multiply that by 5.  Tall, occupied, apartment buildings that look like they could fall at any moment were everywhere you look.  Imagine floors of apartments with no windows and kids hanging out of them.  Piles of trash lined the streets.  Here is a slideshow of Cairo traffic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And security everywhere.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Le Meridian’s location is great with good views of the Pyramids.  It’s right across the street from them.

20170414_073058

A different tour manager met us at the hotel and checked us in.  He and I did not hit it off.  I think it was a case of personality clash and language barrier.  He bought me some medicine to take care of my headache though.  Pop this packet of dust in some water and drink up, were his instructions.  I told my son to keep the packet in case something happened to me.  It was one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted but it did the job.  He took us to lunch, more like dinner because it had gotten so late.  I was very clear about my eating preference but it was a disaster.  I won’t get into details, but what I will say is, they didn’t know how to grill fish, they tried to serve me fried fish, then ‘ground’ fried, cut up fish.  SMH! In the end they wound up giving me some frozen, fried vegetable rolls. On a positive note, the restaurant was right across the street from the pyramids and the Sphinx so I captured this stunning photo.

20170413_173204

After complaining to my original tour manager, he promised us a better day tomorrow and a great tour guide.

After sleeping on the smallest, hardest, most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever slept on, at the Le Meridian, we woke up to what would be my favorite day in Egypt.  We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel buffet, despite the dirty dishes, and met up with ‘Amina’ (name changed), our last tour guide.

We paid $25 dollars and opted for the camel rides through the Giza plateau.  I was surprised that the Great Pyramids were located right in the city but once we started trekking through the plateau it became magical.  I felt like we were in ancient Egypt riding through the desert.  The pyramids are definitely WONDERFUL!  They are actually bigger than I imagined.  We were able to see the 3 largest ones up close and personal and I couldn’t help but to touch them and sit on one.  This was what I came to Egypt for and for awhile I forgot about all the negative aspects of my trip and I just enjoyed it.  Until we got gagged into drinking a bottle of soda that was handed to us and were hounded for a tip.  Nothing is free, even if it’s placed in your hand.  I forgot that Amina had warned us of this sort of thing.  Anyway, we had so much fun posing with the Great Pyramids of Giza…

DSC_0444DSC_0438DSC_0341DSC_035320170414_083043

DSC_0390

DSC_0391

…and with the Sphinx

DSC_0431
My tour guide in Cairo

DSC_0434DSC_0430DSC_0417

20170414_100856
My favorite picture in Egypt!
20170414_100916
I was looking forward to kissing the Sphinx

After our fun in Giza, we went to lunch.  Amina took us to a restaurant on a ship on the Nile River.  She ordered me a vegetarian meal.  They did their best to accommodate but I tasted crumbs of chicken in my pasta with vegetables.  The bread, tomato soup and salad was good.  Amina also took us to a place where we got Cartouches made.  A cartouche is a pendant with ancient Egyptian symbols which spell something. Ours spells our names.

The Egyptian Museum was our next stop.  If you are in Cairo, I highly recommend going there.  The exhibits are great.  I couldn’t help but think, what a great trip this could be for a class of students.  It would be a awesome inquiry-based provocation for further discussion and research.  I had so many questions when I left.  I’ve never had a better history lesson than this visit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also visited Coptic Cairo, including the Hanging Church.  We couldn’t really go in because it was a very holy week and service was going on at the time.  I could have passed on this part of the tour.  It was very nerve-wrecking, with security everywhere and since terrorist had threatened further church bombings.

We finished up our tour with some shopping in Khan Al Khalili, a souk of sorts.  I liked it. I was able to get some souvenirs and a leather handbag for next to nothing.  I wished I had purchased more.  I would definitely go back there to do some more shopping.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One more night of uncomfortable sleeping left me with a pained shoulder and hurt back but I got more out of this trip than I had expected.  The ride to the airport was filled with a necessary conversation about Egypt with my tour manager Eslam, actual name.  I told Eslam my feelings.  I expected different from Egypt.  I fantasized about glamour and Kings and Queens.  He helped me to see that most Egyptians daily goal is getting food home to feed their family.   There is the rich and there is the poor and not much in the middle.

At first, I wanted nothing more to do with Egypt.  I had had enough of dirty dishes, and non meat options, crazy traffic and hassleing, begging and hard beds, a cost for everything, 5 star advertised hotels with 3 star standards, delayed flights, tipping and everything else.  But then I wanted more.  I wanted to experience authentic Egypt, the real Egyptian food and to see how they really live without tourist blinders.  I was mad at myself for not doing my homework and researching this place before visiting, this place beyond the tourist sites, the recent history and government affairs.  But then I was happy I didn’t because I learned so much more first hand.  I know that when I travel from now I will have to decide what I want to know before hand and what I don’t and if I decide not to know, than I better be prepared for anything.  I better be prepared to lower my standards and come out my pockets more.  I better be prepared to live like a local however that may be for however long I plan to stay.  If I want to vacation like I live or better, I better book my own hotels, my own flights and find my own restaurants instead of relying on a travel company, and definitely not travel to a third-word country.  I had no idea Egypt was a third-world country or that it was so poor.  How idiotic of me.  My fantasy was not reality.  Visiting my dream country was so much different than my dreams.  But Egypt will forever hold a special place in my heart for it has changed the way I look at Life.

I AM SO BLESSED TO LIVE THE LIFE I LIVE!

If you stuck in there with me and read to the end, thank you.  I know it was a long post. It took me along time to process this trip and to write about it.  I hope you enjoyed going through my adventure with me.  Please share your thoughts.

[Lingering questions:

How could a country with so much history forsake it’s citizens?

How could a government be so corrupt to not take care of it’s peoples?

How could so many other surrounding, Middle-Eastern countries be so rich and this one be so poor?]

20170414_152618

What to wear to Egypt in April

Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.

When you think of Middle Eastern countries you probably think of desert and heat, and you would be correct.  So when I decided to finally visit a country I’ve always wanted to go, I wondered what to wear.  Since I live in Qatar now, I figured like most middle eastern countries it had a majority Muslim population.  This is correct but what people may not know is that there are also many Christians that reside there.   You are not required to cover your head or your entire body in Egypt, but it is respectful to be modest.

I traveled mid April for Spring break, April 11-15.  The weather was hot during this time of the year but mostly not oppressive in Cairo.   Luxor, however, was very hot especially on the west side where the Valley of the Kings is located.

Here are my suggestions of what to pack to wear for 5 days in Egypt:

Long, thin, black, maxi skirt (versatile and stylish, great for the plane ride)

2-3 pairs of neutral, light colored linen or 100% cotton pants (cool and comfortable)

3 cami’s or tank tops, black, white, tan (cool, small and easy to pack)

2 scarf shawls that you can wrap around your upper body (thin, airy, modest)

1 pretty cotton dress (lightweight and stylish)

Rugged Open toe sandals (safe and comfortable for all the walking)

1 white cotton button down shirt (versatile and modest)

1 pair of comfy sneakers

optional- a few pretty scarves for style and headwrapping

Besides toiletries, a pair of pajamas and undergarments, swim suit, cash, and electronics, this is all I packed.  Everything fit in one Victoria’s secret duffle bag.  I was comfortable the whole trip.  The pants worked out best because there was a lot of flies bothering my son, but I didn’t feel them.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 11.58.42 AMI don’t like the way Birkenstocks look but they are of good quality and are very comfortable. Open toe sandals are better so that you can get the sand easily out of your shoes, and your feet won’t sweat with the heat.  Here is a pictures of the Birkenstocks I wore.

I took a pair of khaki colored linen pants and a pair of white and blue ombre linen pants and one pair of lyocell blue slacks.  I paired these with my tank tops and threw my shawl scarves on top, that I purchased at Bershka.

A white button down is a staple for traveling.  It can be worn with any bottoms, alone as a dress, as a cover-up or over a tank top like I wore mine.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 12.43.48 PMI saved my cotton dress for my tours in Cairo, which wasn’t the best idea.  Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.  I held my head high but inside I was saying, ugh, probably should have worn the pants today.  But it made for great pictures anyway.  I’m kissing the Sphinx in my dress.

 

The point is to travel light, especially if you’re going to travel between cities as I did. Pack cool material items that are ok to be worn wrinkled. Choose light or neutral colors and items that you can mix and match together.  Pack cover ups to respect the tradition of modesty.  Remember comfort over flashiness when packing for Egypt.

How to Survive a Year in a Long Distance Marriage

Living a part from your best friend and lover is not easy. You need a lot of patience. You need to have a goal in mind, that will make it all worth it in the end. You have to believe that it will work and work at it. It can be done!

When I accepted a teaching position in Qatar, I knew I would be pretty far from anything remotely familiar to me including my husband but I didn’t know I would be 6,770 miles away. I had never been in a long distance relationship and prayed that my relationship with my husband was strong enough that my marriage could survive.  I know that distance can make or break a relationship.  Well the first year of this long distance marriage is coming to a close and I am happy to say, our relationship is stronger because of it.  I will also add, HE IS WORTH IT!  Here is how our marriage survived a long year apart and perhaps these tips can help you too.

Make time for each other

Set a specific time of day, each day to spend together.  There was an 8 hour time difference between Philadelphia and Qatar, 7 hours during daylight savings.  When my day was coming to a close, his afternoon was just beginning.  When his was coming to a close, mine was just beginning.  So we always made an effort to speak before each of us went to bed.  Thankfully he worked from home 2-3 days a week, so some days we spoke a lot more often.  We would watch our favorite shows together.  We both had an Amazon fire Stick, so we were able to watch episodes simultaneously.  Back at home, we always had shows that were ours, that we only watched together.  So we stuck to that.

Technology is your friend 

We Skyped most times, video chatted on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.  Those long distance phone calls can really add up so make space on your phone, tablet and laptop for all apps that will allow you to talk free of charge.  We kept our Family Plan with T-Mobile when I moved but added the Simple choice plan which gave us free unlimited text messages while living overseas.  Also I purchased a Magic Jack before leaving the U.S.  With this, I received an American phone number and had the ability to call American phone numbers without extra charges.  This came in handy when Wifi didn’t work.  While technology is your friend, wifi is not always friendly.

Find an airline and a credit card you really like and stick with it

The amount of points you will get for visiting each other will add up and maybe you could even score free flights or other perks.  Right before I left for Qatar, I got an American Airlines credit card because they were offering 44,000 points after you spend $1,000 within 90 days.  I figured I wouldn’t use AA much while in Qatar but those points could be used when I came home for a trip for just the two of us or to fly him to visit me.  It didn’t take long to earn 55,000 and two free admission tickets to their Admirals club.  We will be using those tickets and points this summer to fly first class to Vegas.

My favorite airline to date is Qatar Airways.  The service is always top shelf.  The longer the flight the better the service.  Joining their privilege club has its benefits too.  I set up my account to include my food preference of vegetarian and when I am flying they always have separate food for me ready to go.  The flight attendants have always been nice, the entertainment on board is good, the food and drinks are free and you’re allowed 2 checked bags, a carryon and a personal item.  Sure you will pay more for their flights but with good reason.  Eventually if you use them enough, your club status will change and the perks will increase.

Schedule your visits

I missed my husband a lot, sometimes more than others, but scheduling his visits gave me something to look forward to.  Planning our time together was fun.  You can use countdown apps or a calendar to track the days until you are in each other’s arms again.

Create a ‘thing’

Each night before I went to bed, I sent Darryl a song.  I added all of these songs into a playlist called “For Him”.   It turned into my favorite playlist of all.   It is a good mix of songs that started with the song I walked in on on our wedding day.   I started sending him these songs as soon as we were on different continents.  After his first visit, I stopped sending them.  I thought it was just a small thing that didn’t hold much value.  That was until one day he said, “I guess you aren’t sending me any more songs” and I could hear the melancholy in his voice.  It was at that moment, I realized how much me sending these songs meant to him and that it was “Our Thing”.   Needless to say, I started sending them again.  So create a thing for your mate and stick to it.   One of my coworkers who is also in a long distance marriage says she and her husband often planned to eat dinner together while on the phone, or cooked together.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is special between the two of you.

Here are a few songs from “For Him”:

Turning Page by Sleeping at Last from the Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Soundtrack

Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran

A Song for You by Donny Hathaway

I Miss You by Beyoncé

I Miss You by Adele

Your time is precious, don’t sweat the small stuff

The first time Darryl came to visit, we had been apart for three months. I guess within those three months I had grown kind of selfish.  He bought me some snacks from the U.S. that I missed, but he was eating them.  I got a little upset about this because he could eat these any time he wanted back home, but I could not.  The ones he brought with him was all I had and he was eating them.  I was so annoyed.  I snapped at him.  When he left, I missed him so much and I felt really bad about the way I treated him.   Another incident happened during that same visit.  I have a teddy bear that I sleep with that he purchased for me.  When he came into my bedroom, he moved it and when I said something to him about it, he threw it on the floor.  I got so upset with him.  The next time he visited, I moved ‘Blackey’ the teddy bear from the bed to the chair.  I didn’t get upset when he ate my American snacks.  I realized that on the last visit, I wasted time being upset over petty things.

Every couple has arguments and disagreements but when you live so far apart, every moment together is precious.  Don’t waste time on small stuff.   Just remember how much you miss him when he’s gone and all the petty stuff won’t matter.

Do some regular things together when he visits

The first time Darryl visited we took a trip to the Maldives.  It was so fun.  But the next time he came we stayed at my home in Qatar.  And that visit was even better.   Why? Because we got to do regular, married couple, every day things, that we don’t get to do.  None of our time was wasted on waiting on an airplane, or a whole day of traveling.  We had some real quality time together.  We watched our shows in the same room.   We had pillow talk.  We cooked together.  We shopped.  We spent hours upon hours in bed.  We went out to eat.  We visited friends.  He drove!  He went to work with me, met my students and read to them.  We went to the movies.  He went with me to get the car fixed, which was a big deal, because he got to feel like a husband again and I got to feel like a wife.  Visits don’t have to be big and elaborate to be special.

Find ways to show him, you love him

My hubby found the holidays specifically depressing.  I, on the other hand, was in a country that doesn’t really celebrate American holidays so it didn’t affect me in the same way because there weren’t decorations up everywhere or people celebrating.  My most depressing times were right after he left.  Anyway, it’s hard to send love through a phone, or celebrate holidays over 6,000 miles away.  But we both managed to find ways to show each other how much we loved one another.

A few weeks after Darryl left initially, I found a letter that he hid in the arm of one of my jackets.  It was a love letter that he wrote for me before he left.  On our anniversary, my son bought me a letter that Darryl had written and given to him to give to me on this day. The thought that he put into that made me teary eyed.  Darryl loves watches, so one day I ordered him one and sent it to the house.  He was so surprised.  These little momentos are everything.

Make the most of your alone time

I’ve never had a lot of friends or had to be surrounded by a large entourage so being alone was not new to me.  I actually enjoyed time spent with me, myself and I, so the thought of being without friends, and family didn’t really trouble me.  But it had been a long time since I had gone without companionship for more than 2 weeks.  In fact, I have been in relationships for the last 17 years with no significant lapse in between.   This indeed was different.

But I learned to enjoy my alone time.  I watched shows that I liked and ate out when I wanted.  I shopped without guilt or hiding bags.  I went out for drinks with new friends, without feeling guilty about leaving him alone.  I spent a significant amount of time sitting in silence, just being reflective and learning about me.  I traveled and spent way too much money.  I didn’t take up a hobby but I did get back into writing, this time by way of blogging.   I encourage you to take up a hobby or get back into something that you once enjoyed but that fell by the wayside because, well life happens.  Learn a new language.  Learn to play an instrument.  Go somewhere you always wanted to go but the two of you couldn’t afford together.  Next year, I do plan on learning Arabic.  I also intend to learn how to play the violin.  I’ve always wanted to play the violin.  I recently bought a membership to get back into yoga.  It’s a great way to relieve stress since my other stress reliever is so far away.  Make the most of your alone time and time spent making new friends.  Which brings me to my next tip…

Trust and Respect each others space

My life did not end when I left and neither did his, so what’s the point of getting upset when he decides to go out with friends instead of being on the phone with me.  Living apart is not easy; living over 6,000 miles apart is a challenge.   Give each other space.  Every free minute does not have to be spent on the phone talking to each other.

What is a relationship without trust?  I had to trust that when he went out, it was not to cheat, flirt or meet people.  It was for the same reasons I went out, to relieve stress and have fun.  It is so important to think positive or you will drive yourself crazy.  I remember this one time Darryl didn’t answer my nightly phone call.  All kinds of negative thoughts filled my head.  Did he have company?  Did he have a chick over? Is he ignoring my calls? When he finally called me, he said he was so tired that he fell asleep waiting for my call.  If a man is going to cheat, no amount of worrying is going to prevent it.  You will drive yourself crazy, worrying about what he is doing.  If you love your mate, trust them and respect their space.

Surround yourself with friends that have your relationship’s best interest at heart

I’ve met several females since I’ve moved overseas, some single, some married and their spouse is with them, some in a similar situation to mine, some newly divorced.   Who you choose to spend your time with is important.  In my experience, partying with single friends is never the best choice.  They know that you are married but they still say, “so and so has friends.” That’s nice, but what does that have to do with me.  Why even put yourself in that predicament?  One of the persons that I chose to spend the majority of my time with, I mentioned her earlier in this post, is in the same situation as me.  Her husband lives in Germany and she lives here.  I feel very comfortable telling her when I miss my hubby and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she misses hers.  We understand each other’s feelings.  Me and another girl clicked from day 1.  She and I started together.  She is married and her husband is here with her.  We became instant friends.  Our husbands are cool too.  I like hanging with her for several reasons but one of those reasons is that she loves her husband and keeps me on track.  Both of these girls have no problem telling me when they think I am wrong about my hubby and I like that.  They don’t try to steer me away or to meet other people.  They tell me I have a good husband and I better act right.

Darryl keeps a small circle too.  I am grateful for the few friends he has, who try to keep him busy and who check on him.

Living a part from your best friend and lover is not easy.  You need a lot of patience.  You need to have a goal in mind, that will make it all worth it in the end.   You have to believe that it will work and work at it.  It can be done!

Protected: When Wearing a Head Wrap is Not Allowed in a Muslim Country

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below: